It is 100% messed up. Really.
Nine people kept in small rooms, solitary except for communication with a "computer" (named Val and visually represented in a way similar to Hal from 2001 A Space Odyssey) who runs these experiments. They are required to endure various hardships - such as sleep deprivation, hunger, cold, physical discomfort and pain, etc - in order to continue on in the competition. They can quit at any time, if the emotional/physical/mental stress is too great. They have no understanding of the passage of time, and they only find out well after the fact if a competitor has quit.
I think what's so compelling about this is that it's a personal game, in a way. They're competing against each other, sure, but they don't interact. They don't play mind games with each other. It's all individual.
And I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the mental degradation these people are putting themselves through is a little fascinating. It makes me wince. And boggle.
I'm on episode five right now. Crazy stuff.
(Also, hulu.com is one of my favorite websites EVER. Some great movies and tv shows are up there, totally free of charge. And it's a legal, legit website, growing in popularity. I love it!)